In Writing

There I was, texting with a new guy from Match. It was going so well. We’d quickly graduated from messages on the website to an hours-long text conversation about love, trying again, baseball, college girlfriends/boyfriends, What Went Wrong In Your Marriage (you know: obligatory middle-aged dating talk). I could tell from his pictures he was cute, totally my type. He liked to talk about feelings and about the future. He texted me a picture of one of his grown sons and, later, of a romantic sunset.

And then.

I won’t go into detail other than to say that he intends to relocate to a big, empty state and build a 1,000 square foot cabin in the middle of nowhere in the next couple of years so he can live away from mortgages and civilization.  (He was sort of feeling me out to see if I’d be game for coming along). He even quoted me this fact: the biggest county in his state is the same size as my entire home state of New Jersey, population 9 million.  Population of his county? 25,000.

Peeps, he offered this information like it was a good thing.

Can you say dealbreaker?  To support his plan, he quoted me a statistic that in 1950, the average house was 950 square feet and today it is 2300 square feet. Because, you know, the fifties were a time when everything was better. It led me to want to compile this list of other facts of life in the 1950s just for fun (oh, I kept texting with him, and I may even go out with him next weekend – it was discussed- but I Googled and wrote this post during our conversation anyway).  Here it is, born of my boredom in trying to get to know the Unabomber as a dating prospect: five things women couldn’t do in the 1950s:

  1. Get a credit card.  As recently as the 1970s, banks could legally refuse to give a credit card to an unmarried woman. This did not change until the Lawful Credit Act of 1974.
  2. Serve on a jury. Because, you know. Women get the feels. Silly girls. Can’t trust us with deciding Man Stuff. Forget 12 Angry Men. Imagine 12 Hormonal Women.
  3. Have rights in marriage – and divorce. Marital rape was an oxymoron until 1993, when it finally became criminalized. Until then, if the husband wanted it, the wife didn’t have a legal right to say no. And if he was a thug who wanted it all the time (or abusive, or an incorrigible cheater or just plain gross to be married to)… until 1969 she couldn’t get a no-fault divorce (later in many states). Meaning that sticking it out for the long haul was pretty much the only option. Either that or a long, bloody divorce in which you had to prove things like infidelity.
  4. Support herself. In 1963, women made 59 cents on the male dollar. Women could be fired for being pregnant until the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and couldn’t do anything about sexual harassment until it was legally defined by the Equal Opportunity Commission in 1980. So remember that long, protracted divorce in point #3?  No way to pay for it.
  5. Own a home. Due to the unfair lending practices described above, women couldn’t get mortgages without men. So… a house may have been 950 square feet, but you could only have one if you had a penis.

And this, folks, is without even delving into what it was like to be a Black or Latina woman in the 1950s.

The next time someone tells you how great the 1950s were, you know what to say. Be sure to write me and tell me all about it when I’m in my cabin out west with my new husband, the Unabomber. {wink}.  I wouldn’t be so amused by this if I hadn’t just had that great date I wrote about. (Missed it? Click here to read). Maybe I’ll have a sleepover-worthy boyfriend by Thanksgiving, one that actually wants to have dinner with us and meet my friends and family and be proud to call me his girl? That way my family can stop thinking I’m an asexual nun who can’t get a man. It’s a bit soon to say for sure, but hope springs eternal. Especially when you’re not a woman in the 1950s.




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